David Nelson will have yet another opportunity to prove himself against a team that cut him within the past year.
Nelson has been here before. Cut by the Bills after he spent the first three years of his NFL career in Buffalo, Nelson was in training camp with the Browns this year. But a prior knee injury robbed him of much of camp and he was among the last cuts in Cleveland in August.
“Just couldn’t get healthy, I think that was the main thing. [I] signed there after an ACL surgery and didn’t participate in OTAs and minicamp,” Nelson said. “[I] just wasn’t able to fully participate in training camp. I came back a day and got injured injured again. I only got to play in one game, in that last preseason game. And to be completely honest with you, I didn’t play that well.”
Nelson has a chance on Sunday to show the Browns they made a mistake cutting him.
Despite not being signed until Week 5, Nelson is tied for third on the Jets with 27 receptions. He also has 324 receiving yards. He’s become a favorite target of rookie quarterback Geno Smith, particularly on third downs.
What Nelson brings is a big frame and the ability to block down the field. He’s a good route runner and has reliable hands. In other words, he is everything that Stephen Hill should be.
As for playing the Browns, the team that cut him, Nelson admits that given his injuries at the time and how little he was able to show in the preseason game, it was a situation where “I’d probably look at them weird if they kept me.” He was clearly fueled before playing at the Bills in Week 11 and he said openly he had to prove a point in that game.
This time around, there isn’t the animosity Nelson felt toward the team that cut him this past summer.
“I felt it wasn’t warranted,” Nelson said of being cut by Buffalo. “I felt I did enough to warrant another year.”
Even Cleveland admits it was a struggle to cut ties with a player who got just one preseason game with the team.
“Yeah, it was a tough decision for us. We really just didn’t have a lot of opportunity to see him. He was injured pretty much the whole camp so we just got a little bit at the very end,” Browns head coach Rob Chuzinski said. “And it’s a tough decision. Those decisions always come down to the whole roster, not just one position or not just one guy. But it’s good to see he’s back on the field and playing well, doing the things that you knew he could do, and he’s an outstanding person and I’m happy to see that he’s made it back and doing well.”
He is third among Jets wide receivers in offensive snaps despite a history of injuries and missing the season’s first four games as he recovered from the knee injuries which held him back with the Browns.
Although he doesn’t have quite the same anger this time around, Nelson wants to turn heads this week as well.
“There’s obviously going to be a fire. I played against them; I was with them,” Nelson said. “Still at the end of the day they cut me. No one likes to be fired or let go or anything like that. There is some extra motivation this week but the situation is different than a few weeks ago.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.